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Posted on: August 19, 2016

Dust mites — and their waste — are one of the leading causes of allergies and asthma throughout the year. Some common symptoms of dust mite allergies are:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing

About 20 million Americans suffer allergic reactions to these tiny bugs, which can make you feel like you have a never-ending cold.

Your house may look immaculate, but a tiny, trouble-causing invader may lurk where you can’t see. The mites consume stray human skin cells, and they absorb moisture from the air. They love temperatures between about 65 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and they thrive in environments with humidity higher than 50 percent.

How do these uninvited guests survive in an otherwise clean house? In most homes, dust becomes trapped deep in the fibers of our home textiles, including carpets, bed linens, curtains and upholstered furniture. Mites are most often found in bedrooms, which make ideal habitats thanks to all the cushy places to hide.

What Causes Allergies to Dust Mites?

Dust mite allergies really are caused by a byproduct of the mites: their feces and decaying bodies. These proteins in mite debris are the primary culprit when it comes to causing allergic reactions.

When your immune system reacts to foreign substances — like dust mite debris — it produces antibodies to protect you. You also experience an inflammatory response that can affect your lungs and nasal passages. With ongoing exposure to a triggering allergen, you can develop the chronic inflammation that’s related to asthma.

Our patients frequently ask, “What can I do about my dust mite allergy?” Here are three strategies you can use to evict the allergy-inducing intruders from your home and reduce your allergy symptoms.

1. Cover and Clean

Consider having your home — and especially your bedroom — cleaned by someone who does not suffer from allergies. If you must clean on your own, be sure to wear a mask that can filter dust. To clear out as many mites and their debris as possible:

  • Use special microfiltration bags for your vacuum cleaner.
  • Use a damp cloth to dust furniture and a damp mop to clean bare flooring.
  • Wash rugs in hot water if possible, since cold water allows up to 10 percent of mites to remain. Dry cleaning also will kill mites and remove dust from textiles.
  • Cover box springs, mattresses and pillows with plastic, airtight covers or dustmite encasements.
  • Use pillows with polyester fiber filling rather than feathers.
  • Wash bedding in the hottest water possible on a weekly basis.

2. Reduce Humidity and Dust in the Air

To keep the moisture in the air low, use your air conditioning or a dehumidifier. Humidity levels below about 50 percent are necessary for keeping mites to a minimum; consider using a hygrometer to measure.

A HEPA filter with a high MERV rating — around 11 or 12 — will help trap a significant amount of dust and keep it out of the air. And be sure to change your filters every three months for maximum effectiveness.

3. Eliminate Hiding Spots

Try to rid your home of materials that are conducive to mites. For example, limit the number of stuffed toys and upholstered pieces of furniture in the environment. Choose washable fabrics when possible, and opt for flooring materials other than carpets. Instead of draperies, choose window shades, which are easier to clean.

For personalized assistance with controlling a dust mite allergy, please contact Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center.